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CHICAGO (AP) – Jussie Smollett appeared on trial Monday for staging a racist and anti-gay attack on himself and lying to Chicago police about it.

On the witness stand on Monday, Smollett told the jury how he grew up in a close-knit family of six and began acting as a child actor before moving more into music. He said he “came to terms with my sexuality” in his early twenties when he got involved with charities, including a group that fights AIDS in the black community.

He said he auditioned for a role in a gay singer’s “Empire” because he had never seen a black man portrayed that way. In season five, Smollett said he was paid $ 100,000 per episode.

Smollett said he met Abimbola Osundairo in 2017 at a club, where he learned that Osundairo was also working on the set of “Empire”. He said the two used drugs together and went to a public bath, where Smollett said they “kissed”. Over time, he said the two took more drugs together and participated in sex acts together. Osundairo said last week that he and Smollett had not had sex.

Jussie Smollett testified that he had met Abimbola’s brother, Olabingo, but they had not spoken and “he freaked me out a bit.” He said Abimbola Osundairo gave the impression that men needed to “squeeze” when they were together around his brother. Smollett said he never trusted Olabingo Osundairo.

Prosecutors say Smollett organized the attack because he was unhappy with the “Empire” studio’s response to the hate mail he received. The letter included a drawing of a snowman hanging in a noose, with a gun pointed at it, and the word “MAGA” – an apparent reference to then-President Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The Osundairo brothers testified that Smollett told them to shout “this is MAGA country” during the fake assault.

Brett Mahoney, who produced “Empire” in Chicago, said earlier Monday that Smollett had called him after sending the hate mail on set.

“We were obviously all very upset with the letter,” Mahoney said, adding that law enforcement had been contacted and the letter had been handed over to authorities. He said Smollett had agreed to add security to the set, but didn’t want anyone to follow him home because he thought it was too intrusive.

Also on Monday, security guard Anthony Moore said that at the time of the alleged assault he saw a person on the ground at the end of the block and two men running, one of whom was white. Moore said he told police what he saw, but when later questioned by the special prosecutor he felt compelled to change his story. Moore said he signed a statement that the person was “maybe” a black man, but felt “pressured and threatened to post something I hadn’t seen.”

In cross-examination, Moore said he only saw the man for one to two seconds. He also said he thought the men were having fun and both men were laughing as they walked past him.

Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for doing what prosecutors have called a false police report on the alleged attack – one count for every time he made a report – to three different officers. The Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is found guilty he will likely be placed on probation and ordered to do community service.


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